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    An Open Letter to Ellie and Joel

    By Softballchic10

    There are certain games that come along from time to time that really get your attention. It could be for the action, the graphics or game play. However, it is a rare occasion that a game grabs you for all of these, plus the amazing experience of becoming emotionally attached and involved in the actions of characters. It is to this that I write this open letter to Ellie and Joel. I met them in the “The Last of Us.” *(Please note that I've tried to write this to contain no spoilers. Personality of the characters is mentioned as well as reference to generic type actions that happen in game.) Dear Ellie and Joel, I want to thank you for letting me join you on one of the most amazing adventures of my life. I know the journey was long and brutal. There is never a reason a death should be simple or a casual thing. But a person has every right to fight for their own right to live. It is to that I acknowledge and understand why at times death followed in your footsteps. Know that I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you for it. Joel, you said yourself along the way “It was him or me.” Simply stated, but true to fact. We all wish that we could walk again in relative harmony the way we once did. That time may come again, but not now. Not now. Joel, at times you were a hard man for me to like, but you had your own personal reasons, your own demons that you fought every day. But even when I disagreed with your words, your actions always spoke louder and with greater heart. There were moments when you were an enigma to me. You could be harsh and bitter one moment, protective and wise at another. As I think on it, I believe it is because the man that knew a world before everything went to hell is still there inside you, wrestling the man you have had to become to survive. Ellie, you are an amazing young woman. I refuse to acknowledge you as a girl as most people do. Yes, there are times when you were goofy, silly and playful. But those are wonderful traits to carry on, even as you get older. It was refreshing to watch as you, for the first time, saw the world as it used to be, even if it was only in shattered pieces. Your wonder was childlike, not childish, and full of amazement and wonder. I smile now thinking about some of those moments. But that is only part of who you are. You are also fierce, tough, loyal and caring. These traits to me and your actions when times were tough are what shaped you into the young woman I have come to know. You have such strength of character. It didn't matter if it was Hunters, the army or Infected, you always were there, looking out and helping out. You never ran away from danger when you could have given up. Your determination to see every situation though, no matter for good or bad, it is inspiring. We adults could learn so much from you, if we only would accept the fact that sometimes the best of what we are lies in the hearts of people like you, not warped and changed by a world gone sideways. A final thought before I close this letter to both of you. Joel, I know the world as it is now has forced you to build up walls around you. It would be almost impossible to survive as long as you have without such things happening to the best of us. I hope that you find, however, that letting a little light in, be it found in people or in something else that makes you happy, there is still good in the world and the good man that you’ve buried inside you deserves to see and enjoy it. Ellie, I firmly believe that you will never give up. The world may be violent and brutal but its people like you who give us hope that we can be better then what we've become. Whatever happens though, don't ever lose that since of amazement that you get from seeing things for the first time. I hope you always have a joke and a ready smile. Oh, and one more thing. Don't trust people that do acupuncture, they're back stabbers. I know you'll understand. Once again, thank you for letting me come along on your adventure. It wasn't easy and I hate some of the things we had to do. But since we had no choice, I'm glad we went through it together. Godspeed to both of you.
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  1. I feel like I've hit the wall, both creatively and when it comes to gaming. I've so far ignored this current generation of games, as none of the "next gen" systems on offer feel like they have anything to offer me, and yet this creates a conundrum for me. I honestly cannot remember the last time a game absolutely blew me away, and yet looking back through the past, through my own memories, I can see dozens upon dozens of instances. Some of them were gaming "firsts", such as the first time I saw 'Super Mario Bros.' in action and realized games could be larger than one static screen like the arcades offered, my first encounter with 'Resident Evil' where I learned the potential games had to terrify, or the first time I wandered through a fully-realized 3D city environment in 'Grand Theft Auto III' where you could just drive around and explore without being tied to missions or even time limits.

    In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize it's those "firsts" that have given meaning to gaming to me ever since I was little. Playing 'Dragon Warrior' on the NES, my first real RPG experience. Watching Sonic burn through stages at warp speed on the Genesis. Two-player racing battles in 'Super Mario Kart' and 'F-Zero'. Taking my first steps in the City of Vilcabamba level in Lara Croft's shoes within the 'Tomb Raider' demo.

    'Tomb Raider' was twenty-one years ago, the summer of 1996, and while there have been other games like it, nothing has matched that feeling of immersion, of danger, of solitude and exploration. Twenty-one years. I was nineteen.

    'Silent Hill 2' turns sixteen this September. I've never played another game that was so good I wanted to keep playing, but took me to places so awful to contemplate that I had to put it down just to process what I'd witnessed. I was twenty-four when Jess gave me the game for my birthday that October. Others have come close, but none have matched the horror of James Sunderland's journey through hell, searching for his wife Mary.

    I could go on like this, but it just makes me depressed. I have close to fifty games in my PS3 library, and not one I can name has left me with the feeling that I've experienced something life-changing. Have I had fun? Absolutely! I loved the 'Tomb Raider' reboot of 2013. 'Bionic Commando: Rearmed' is a fantastic port/update of the NES classic. 'Just Cause 2' is awesomely explosive open-world entertainment, and 'Saints Row 2' and its two sequels have picked up the mantle 'Grand Theft Auto' ditched when they opted for gritty and obnoxious realism over the comedic joy and silliness that comes from playing a video game. Nathan Drake's antics in 'Uncharted' are entertaining, but is Naughty Dog doing anything different from what Core Design did years ago and Indiana Jones did a decade before that?

    Even the lone game in my PS3 library I could name that gave me that kind of 'first' experience is nothing more than an HD port of two PS2 games. 'Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga' was ground-breaking in its mixture of fun and simplicity, but again, I'd played it already a few years earlier when it was 'Lego Star Wars' and 'Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy'.

    Then I think: 'Dead Space'. 'Dead Space' came closest. It did a lot of things right. But just like the 'Alien' films, 'Dead Space' became a victim of its own success. If the first game was a claustrophobic journey through the unknown, the second was the big action set piece where the protagonist went from ordinary survivor to badass hero, and by the third it was clear the people behind the series had lost all touch with what made it great in the first place. So, for the sake of argument, I'll say 'Dead Space' fits the mold, the requirements, for what I've been seeking.

    'Dead Space' came out in 2008. That was damn near a decade ago...what the hell happened to it (and to me)?

    Scanning the shelves, my gaze settles on 'Heavy Rain'. 'Heavy Rain' was bloody magnificent, I don't care what the haters say, but 'Heavy Rain' came out in 2010. Seven years later, what is there to match it? What is there to look forward to when it seems so many game companies are playing it safe? Can the field evolve further? I don't mean in terms of technological gimmicks like motion controls, touch screens, and VR headsets. I mean in terms of 'firsts', and meaningful firsts at that.

    'Parasite Eve' blew me away in 1998 with its cinematic storytelling and exploration of a New York City at the turn of the millennium under siege from a sentient biological threat. Its sequel ditched the RPG elements, opting for a more straight-up survival horror presentation, and its most recent incarnation for the PSP, 'The Third Birthday', abandoned the Parasite Eve name all together in favor of a pseudo-sequel starring an Aya Brea who feels nothing like the original, who sight-jacks her way through a tired third-person action shooter. Where is the sense in this?

    Though I never played sports, save for a stint in cross-country and track in high school where I was average at best, I feel at this point in my life like a has-been, looking back on her youth, vainly trying to hold on to memories of her glory days on the presumption that things will never change, in denial of the fact that not only will things change, but that they already have.

    Maybe I'm asking for something I can never have. People could point to the eruption of building sandbox games like 'Minecraft', but I've played 'Minecraft' and found it too complicated and too time-consuming for my tastes. I can watch other people play it on YouTube and enjoy myself vicariously through their creations and interactions with the world and other players, but I feel like I've aged out of the demographic who can pick up and play it or its ilk.

    So here I am, stuck between two worlds, aged out of one and left pining for another.

    The truth is, for me, there likely will never be another 'Tomb Raider' moment, another 'Resident Evil' moment, another 'Parasite Eve' moment, another 'Silent Hill 2' moment. Video games are no longer made for people my age. Controls are too complex, single-player is often an afterthought, and so much that we see walks the line of utter safety. Another 'Call of Duty', another 'Halo', another 'Medal of Honor', another clone, another me-too, another waste of my time.

    Whether I outgrew gaming or it outgrew me, I don't know. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. I have my memories, I have my flashes of inspiration, and I have the thankfulness that I was there to experience it all. I literally grew up with video games. But like so many of the friends I made as I grew up, life happened, people moved on, and so have I. Just as it would feel awkward to sit down with an old friend I haven't seen in fifteen years, it feels awkward trying to re-kindle my relationship with video games.

    I want to be the same girl I was twenty years ago, reading through the magazines, eagerly watching the commercials, lapping up coverage of everything interesting me, visiting the rental stores to try new titles, cracking open new demo discs, and immersing myself in that world. I want to be. But I can't.

    Whatever that was, whatever I had, I've lost it. It's left me, hopefully to take up root in someone else's imagination. I hope it's found another girl who watches trailers on YouTube and finds inspiration, who doesn't have room in her house for massive Lego builds but has plenty of RAM on her computer to play 'Minecraft', who grew up reading "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" and now picks up the PS4 controller to play through 'Outlast' or 'Resident Evil VII'. I hope she finds what I lost, nurtures it, makes it a part of who she is, and goes on to draw inspiration from it.

    Because I think it's done with me. And I don't see it coming back.

  2. Note: I do have just enough self-awareness to file this story under our historical category, Time Machine.

    There is a tiny, though increasing, category of PC platform video game ports: Games that no longer run on AMD’s Phenom AM2/3 CPUs. There is a simple reason why, shared by all these games: They have been programmed to require CPU support for Intel’s SSE 4 (“Streaming SIMD Extensions 4”) instruction set, version 4.1 or higher.

    AMD-Logo.png

    The Phenom CPUs, however, only support SSE up to 4.0. This is the simple reason why some games, older and newer, fail to start on Phenom processors. As a surprise to absolutely no-one, I am one of these last Phenom survivors affected by this issue.

    Phenomenal Legacy

    AMD produced Phenoms from 2007 to 2008, and Phenom II’s from 2008 to 2012. It’s now 2017, but to everyone’s surprise, these processors are still surprisingly feisty. The final Phenom II processors produced do not pale, much if at all, in comparison to AMD’s follow-up 2011 FX series – a fact that obviously has much to do with AMD’s failures at CPU development. After all, AMD is only finally beginning to catch up to Intel with the new Ryzen architecture released this year. Back in 2008, however, the Phenom was a competitively priced, powerful alternative to almost everything Intel was offering.

    Admittedly, it’s been seven years since the Sep 21, 2010 introduction date of my AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE, but I’ve managed to hold on to it just fine. You may be surprised to hear it still runs all most new games today. I won’t bore you with the details, given this is an article for the like-minded, but I just tried out three games on the Phenom-hating list: Dishonored 2, and Mafia 3, both which run easily around 60fps in high detail after being patched by developers, and Dead Rising 4, which doesn’t boot at all without SSE emulation (see below). Other new games, like Prey, work equally well.

    I know 60fps isn’t great, or even good, but it’s not bad, either. Heck, I played the original Half-Life 2 on an Nvidia GeForce 2 MX GPU. That’s bad.

    List of Games Not Supporting AMD Phenom at Launch

    Below, I have compiled a list of PC ports that did not outright run on AMD Phenom CPUs. I’ve compiled information of current with patch notes and developer responses. The current list includes the following games:

    • Agents of Mayhem,
    • Dead Rising 4,
    • Dishonored 2,
    • Mafia 3,
    • Earth Defense Force,
    • METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN,
    • No Man’s Sky

    If there are any other examples of this issue, please let me know in the comments section. If you do happen to bump into a new game that doesn’t run on your Phenom, you can test if SSE support is to blame by running it through Intel’s Software Development Emulator. Simply install the SDE package into a subfolder inside your game folder, and launch the game via the emulator in an administrative command prompt.

    Agents of Mayhem: Released 15 Aug, 2017. Volition responds that Phenom users will “not be able to run the game”:

    Are CPUs without SSE 4.1/4.2 supported?

    STATUS: RESOLVED

    AM2/AM3 socket CPUs like the AMD Phenom class (and lower) do not have SSE 4.1/4.2 support and are below minimum requirements. They will not be able run the game.

    Dead Rising 4: Released 14 Mar, 2017.

    No response, at all, from Capcom to date.

    Dishonored 2: Released 11 Nov, 2016. Fixed on 14 December, 2016, in Game Update 1:

    Game now runs on Phenom processor

    Earth Defense Force: Released 19 Jul, 2016, Fixed on 4 August, 2016:

    -Fixed an issue with AMD Phenom II (non-SSE4.1 CPUs)

    Mafia 3: Released 7 Oct, 2016. Developers confirm on 6 Jan 2017 that a hotfix has been released:

    have you tried recently? Our latest patch also hotfixed the SSE 4.1/4.2 issue for many users

    — Hangar 13 (@Hangar13Games) January 6, 2017

    METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN: Released 1 Sep, 2015.

    Fixed day 1.

    No Man’s Sky: Released 12 Aug, 2016. Fixed on 20 August, 2016, in Patch 1.04:

    AMD Phenom Support
    Game is now confirmed working on Phenom CPUs.
    Thousands of lines of assembly have been rewritten to support AMD CPUs. The game code no longer relies on anything above SSE 2.

    Results of Survey

    Games that run, as of 25 Sept, 2017:

    • Dishonored 2,
    • Mafia 3,
    • Earth Defense Force,
    • METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN,
    • No Man’s Sky

    Games that do not run, as of 25 Sept, 2017:

    • Agents of Mayhem,
    • Dead Rising 4

    To me, this looks like a good situation. The Mafia 3 developers Hangar 13 took their time, and while the Mafia 3 demo seems to not have been updated, the main game is confirmed working. So far, only one developer – Capcom – has refused to discuss the issue at all. Dead Rising 4, by all accounts, is a terrible port, and there is little hope for Phenom users – I’d be surprised to see a future patch for the game period.

    Volition, then, is the first party to publicly refuse an update after being made aware of the incompatibility. While that is obviously their choice, I do find their argument of the CPU being “below minimum requirements” to be fairly disingenuous, given that their min specs demand an “Intel Core i3-3240 or above / or AMD equivalent.” I understand that this is semantic, and mostly a he-said she-said one at that, but my my quad-core Zosma (a hexa-core Thuban with two cores disabled) Phenom II X4 970 BE is factory-clocked at 3.5 GHz (I run it at 3.9), and has a 6Mb L3 cache. The Phenom has two (or four, if successfully unlocked) more cores, better clock speeds, and a larger cache to boot.

    If the Intel Core i3-3240 can run Agents of Mayhem, then so can the Phenom II. It probably won’t be pretty on either CPU, but that’s beside the point. Heck, I don’t even want to play Agents of Mayhem, so maybe this is all beside the point!

    Consoles Dictate PC Update Cycles

    With the key details out of the way, I want to touch upon the general issue at play here. First and foremost, almost all of the developers that came face to face with the issue responded admirably to it – all but two games on the list have been patched to work so far, and all but one has received an official response from the developers.

    The uncomfortable fact is that the Phenom, as ancient as it is in temporal terms, remains a relevant processor today due to slow console cycles bogging down PC development. Almost all major games are multiplatform titles today. This means everything. Ever since the first XBOX and the PS2, consoles have almost entirely dictated PC system requirements. Discounting some PC players’ slow inch towards 4K, 1440p, 144Hz, VR, whatever the newest thing is today – in the case of ordinary bottom-end play at 1920x60fps, almost nothing has changed in terms of spec reqs over the past five years.

    This is precisely why developers should still consider this 10-year old processor. There are still enough of AMD Phenom users that user forums get absolutely inundated with users asking for help when their new purchase fails to start up at all – just take a look at the Dead Rising 4 forums! It does not look good at all to the casual observer.

    I completely understand the need for cut-off points with hardware, but so far, this is not yet it.

    Barriers to Entry

    Finally, I can’t also not mention the fact that current-gen video gaming, unfortunately, is a hobby for well-off people in well-off places. Gaming is always going to have barriers to entry. Sometimes these barriers are temporal, sometimes monetary, sometimes societal. Sometimes they can be just decision-making! We end up weighing our budgetary options every day.

    Are computer parts really so different that they should be excluded from that discussion entirely? In this particular case, updating for the sake of updating is, in my mind, a luxury. I know the word “luxury” has a bad rap, but I simply mean that it’s something you do because you can – not something you do because you must. Shouldn’t those that would rather try to hang on, or save money, be respected instead of mocked?

    How can it possibly be offensive that someone gets good mileage out of their investment? Luckily, a dedicated community exists for players who want to get the most out of their old rigs. I’m not at that point yet, but who knows what the future will bring.

    I don’t think it serves our society well to cajole – or even force – everybody to invest into new systems as often as this terrible marketplace of planned obsolescence demands. The fact of the matter is, if we discount the “Your system is old and you should feel bad” argument, all of the above games could have easily been patched to support the Phenom. All of the projects that did receive patches do run excellently on the CPU.

    The only thing preventing support is developer insistence and/or indifference.

    slowdown?i=hF6xSxPsGR0:Eu_FaZiifCY:D7DqB2pKExk slowdown?i=hF6xSxPsGR0:Eu_FaZiifCY:gIN9vFwOqvQ slowdown?i=hF6xSxPsGR0:Eu_FaZiifCY:V_sGLiPBpWU slowdown?d=qj6IDK7rITs slowdown?d=6et-BrRH4jw

  3. There are two websites in the world providing original scans of Japanese gaming magazines.  Retromags, which offers a small collection of Japanese mags scanned mostly by me.  And RetroCDN, which hosts low-resolution scans provided by a native Japanese scanner.

    It's no mystery why these scans are coming from people living in Japan (well, the two of us, anyway.)  We have the easiest, cheapest access to the mags.

    But what's interesting is that all of these scans are being hosted by websites based outside of Japan.  For me, well sure - I'm an American, even if I've been an expat for 9 years.  But the other scanner is Japanese.  Why not host them at a Japanese site?

    Well, because there is no such site.  There simply aren't any magazine preservation sites in Japan.  The entire thing is seen as not only illegal, but unethical by the majority of Japanese (whereas I think it's safe to say that we here at RM may acknowledge the technical illegality of providing magazine scans, but have a far more lenient view on the ethical implications, so long as the mags being offered are old enough to meet our cut-off dates).

    I recently was reading a thread on 2ch, a textboard that is probably Japan's largest and most influential online community (which ironically and fittingly, was founded by a Japanese while attending university in America).  In it, users were discussing websites that offered high resolution scans of gaming mags.  All sites referenced were foreign, and none were offering complete scans of entire magazines, just select pages.  Also, to be fair, these were relatively new mags being discussed, not old stuff like we offer here.

    The following is my translation of select comments.

    Quote

     

    "Of course, we can count on foreigners for such things."

    "I guess we should report this"

    "Can we make a report to foreign countries?"

    "I've decided to report it to the publisher.  It's copyright infringement"

    "You can buy Famitsu every week for 400 yen.  Furthermore, you can get it on your smartphone or tablet.  Scanning is unnecessary."

    "The police allow it because it's overseas."

    "Sometimes when looking at useful information in a scanned image, I'll decide to buy the magazine."

    "I fell into self-loathing after looking at (the scans).  This is terrible.  I will buy this weeks issue."

    "You will be arrested if you do this in Japan.  Report it."

    "To be honest, it can be very useful when you want to see a back issue."

     

    As you can see, there were a couple of people OK with the idea, but most seemed appalled.

    Btw, lest anyone think that the Japanese are as puritanically ethical regarding copyright as these posts might make it seem, I'd like to point out that in the years following the mass acceptance of CDR burners, countless shops in Japan opened up "CD rental" sections, allowing you to rent music CDs.  And there, either right next to the CDs themselves, or else right by the check-out counter, spindles of blank CD-Rs were also being sold.  But I'm sure the two had nothing to do with each other.:rolleyes:

  4. A while back I reviewed the Silmarillion – this time I’m reviewing and discussing Tolkein’s first novel: The Hobbit.

    Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
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    Mermaids don't usually have human parts *that* low, do they?

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    blog-0684885001432929022.pngI just saw WarGames again for the first time in 20 or 25 years and I love how a magazine ad for computer games is basically what starts everything. The power of a magazine, huh?

    I tried to identify the magazine used in the film and it turns out that not only was it a real magazine but it's been scanned and put online. It was an issue of Creative Computing from September 1982.

    https://archive.org/details/creativecomputing-1982-09

  5. There are certain games that come along from time to time that really get your attention. It could be for the action, the graphics or game play. However, it is a rare occasion that a game grabs you for all of these, plus the amazing experience of becoming emotionally attached and involved in the actions of characters.

    It is to this that I write this open letter to Ellie and Joel. I met them in the “The Last of Us.”

    *(Please note that I've tried to write this to contain no spoilers. Personality of the characters is mentioned as well as reference to generic type actions that happen in game.)

    Dear Ellie and Joel,

    I want to thank you for letting me join you on one of the most amazing adventures of my life. I know the journey was long and brutal. There is never a reason a death should be simple or a casual thing. But a person has every right to fight for their own right to live. It is to that I acknowledge and understand why at times death followed in your footsteps.

    Know that I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you for it. Joel, you said yourself along the way “It was him or me.” Simply stated, but true to fact. We all wish that we could walk again in relative harmony the way we once did. That time may come again, but not now. Not now.

    Joel, at times you were a hard man for me to like, but you had your own personal reasons, your own demons that you fought every day. But even when I disagreed with your words, your actions always spoke louder and with greater heart. There were moments when you were an enigma to me. You could be harsh and bitter one moment, protective and wise at another. As I think on it, I believe it is because the man that knew a world before everything went to hell is still there inside you, wrestling the man you have had to become to survive.

    Ellie, you are an amazing young woman. I refuse to acknowledge you as a girl as most people do. Yes, there are times when you were goofy, silly and playful. But those are wonderful traits to carry on, even as you get older. It was refreshing to watch as you, for the first time, saw the world as it used to be, even if it was only in shattered pieces. Your wonder was childlike, not childish, and full of amazement and wonder. I smile now thinking about some of those moments.

    But that is only part of who you are. You are also fierce, tough, loyal and caring. These traits to me and your actions when times were tough are what shaped you into the young woman I have come to know. You have such strength of character. It didn't matter if it was Hunters, the army or Infected, you always were there, looking out and helping out. You never ran away from danger when you could have given up. Your determination to see every situation though, no matter for good or bad, it is inspiring. We adults could learn so much from you, if we only would accept the fact that sometimes the best of what we are lies in the hearts of people like you, not warped and changed by a world gone sideways.

    A final thought before I close this letter to both of you. Joel, I know the world as it is now has forced you to build up walls around you. It would be almost impossible to survive as long as you have without such things happening to the best of us. I hope that you find, however, that letting a little light in, be it found in people or in something else that makes you happy, there is still good in the world and the good man that you’ve buried inside you deserves to see and enjoy it.

    Ellie, I firmly believe that you will never give up. The world may be violent and brutal but its people like you who give us hope that we can be better then what we've become. Whatever happens though, don't ever lose that since of amazement that you get from seeing things for the first time. I hope you always have a joke and a ready smile. Oh, and one more thing. Don't trust people that do acupuncture, they're back stabbers. I know you'll understand.

    Once again, thank you for letting me come along on your adventure. It wasn't easy and I hate some of the things we had to do. But since we had no choice, I'm glad we went through it together.

    Godspeed to both of you.

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    What's there to say about Final Fantasy? A series that is known for huge stories, crazy plot twists, amazing character/monster design, amazing music and visuals, thought and emotional invoking, exploration, hours and hours of game play. Final Fantasy is a series that I have been addicted to ever since I was in late elementary school. The idea of playing a game that was so different from most of the games of the time. You actually have to work to build your character up and think about what you are doing rather than just being put on a platform and pointed in a direction and follow that path till you reach the goal.

    As I'm going into this rant please remember that if you put a name on a game "Final Fantasy" it will have a lot to live up to, because of its history. So many games with the Final Fantasy tag over the past few years have done just the opposite and XIII is no different. I have not beat the game yet but I've put quite a few hours into to so I can make a good observation about what the rest of the game will be like.

    Let’s start where all Final Fantasy games start... in the beginning!

    This again is something that every Final Fantasy game is known for, the set up for the story. Final Fantasy XIII starts of very “ho-hum”. Usually Square does a great job of grabbing your attention and shake you like a newborn baby with shaken baby syndrome. They did a very bad job this time around I was left yawning right from the start. You will also notice right from the beginning the music is no where near as good. When Nobuo Uematsu was doing the music the game had depth and feeling just because of the music he came up with. Now it just feels bland.

    This game seems like they tried to take bits from FFX and duplicate it but failed. The level up system is done in the same fashion where you have a grid that you have to select your upgrades such as more HP or more MP. Which is not bad but it was not executed as well as FFX.

    The battle system at first glance is rather confusing and as you progress through the game you are taught how to use it and it becomes quite interesting. You have to implement a lot of strategy to play this game rather than very little thought. Basically how it works is you control only one character, yes only one the other characters are computer controlled, which is the worst thing about this system, you select your “Job” and then attack. You can select several attacks at once and you can mix it up. Be it just a simple attack, magic, blitz, or what ever it will be – depending on your character you can select multiple attacks or multiple magic’s or do some magic and attack all in one action. As you hit the enemy they have a stagger bar that will increase and when that bar maxes out the enemy will get dizzied and you will for the most part have free hits for a certain amount of time. Stronger enemies will still be able to attack during this period but it will not be as effective. So your main objective is to switch your jobs around to find the best way to dizzy your opponent so you can crush them.

    At first I really hated this battle system but over time I have come to love it! It does have its ups and downs. The biggest thing I like is the strategy involved in figuring out how to kill the opponent. The bad thing is some battles will take forever. If you don’t know how to kill the monster even weak monsters will take too long to kill and it gets boring quickly. The other bad thing again is thought the entire game you only control once character at a time. Of course you will get to play as every character in the game but only being able to use one of them in a battle is like only having one arm and one leg in an Olympic swimming match.

    Another thing that really annoys me about this game is when you die what happens? You start right at the begging of that fight you just lost. Now what is up with that? There is really no downside of loosing a battle because you just get another chance, and another, and another. Some people might see this as a god send, I see it as a flaw in the game. If you don’t die in the fight and you win your life also replenishes. So you’re at full strength in the next battle, again which just does not make sense.

    Now on to how you encounter enemies. No random encounters, you can see them coming in front of you. This is sad only because it’s so much easier to get a preemptive attack; on top of that they give you items to make it even easier. You spray your self with this item and it some how makes you invisible to your opponents. You walk up to them and immediately gives you a free hit to each one of them. Which just about maxes out their stagger meter so you can kill them really quick on those preemptive.

    No over world no real exploration. I’ve not even really been to a town, I’ve been dropped into an area of a town but not gotten a chance to look around and talk to people on the street. No stores, well not really, you can’t shop at stores. You buy your items from little kiosks in the battle fields. These would be little computers that control everything. You can save your game, or access stores. With what little money you find in the game it doesn’t really matter anyway.

    One of the really cool things about these kiosks though would be the upgrade system. As you play through the game you’ll find materials that you can use to upgrade your weapons and accessories. It’s basically like grinding in Phantasy Star Online where you use these items to make your weapons stronger, I’m sure there is a limit as to when the weapon cannot be upgraded and further but I’ve not yet come to that point. The idea of customizing your weapons in this game is probably the best idea out of everything they have tossed into Final Fantasy XIII.

    The monster design of some of the monsters and characters really has me thinking though. They really messed with classic enemies some for the good some for the bad. Such as the Bombs, they are now these metal monsters that some what resemble the bombs of the past but not at first glance. Some of the new creatures in the game are rather dumb as well. Like Incubus it’s a bird creature that does a Native American dance while it’s fighting. I’m sorry but I just did not understand that, I want to find out if this dance was actually based on a real dance but alas I’ve not yet found it.

    How about the Eidolons, or as most people may know them Guardian Force, or maybe Summons or Espers? What ever you call them in this game they are called Eidolons. I don’t even know what is up with them. Shiva and Nix transform into a motorcycle. Odin transforms into a horse. Though when you summon them and use them in battle they are very cool, that is until you transform them to do a dual attack.

    And the character names like Lightning, Snow, and Hope. Come on Square couldn’t you think of something better than that or are you all tapped out in the imagination department. As for Vanille, she is the most annoying character from any Square game invented! She is a tween/teen that acts like she is only 6 years old. The voice actress that either killed her or it was the script that killed her.

    Much of what I may be griping about in this game may just be minor gripes and I probably would not have even complained about them if this was not a Final Fantasy game. Had they slapped a different name on it I’m sure I would not be nit-picking at it as much. Come on though. Like I said if you are going to put that name on a game you are going to have a lot to live up to so it better be done right.

    End thoughts as a Final Fantasy game I'd give it about a 5.5 out of 10. If it did not have the Final Fantasy Name it's more of a 6.5. What I would like to see is Square to go back to the roots and make a real Final Fantasy game that closely resembles a Final Fantasy 6 style but with the graphics of FFXIII. I can’t believe that I spent $60 on this. Of course I’m going to finish the game because I want to get my money out of it. If you have read this rant, and are a fan of the series or maybe your new to the series, please rent it before buying it.

    I think I need to go download FF7 for the PSN or maybe I should just go play some SNES Final Fantasy to wash this out of my memory after I finish.

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    tinman
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    Hell Yeah!! I go back to work as a Machinist Monday after a 11 month layoff whew it sure feels good to be amongst the employed again :D

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    I've recently been raving a lot about Street Fighter IV and it's problems. Most people I talk to don't understand what annoys me about it, so I've decided to dedicate my first ever blog entry to the issues I have with the game.

    Let me first start by saying this rant is based on the XBox 360 version of the game, you know, the one where you can't use the default Xbox controller to play with because it registers so terribly? Spending $30+ for a new controller on top of buying this game should not be mandatory. Somehow I've come CLOSE to my normal playing ability, but I'm still not fully confident I'm playing at Street Fighter Alpha 3 on Playstation accuracy. The 360's D-Pad in no way works to play this game, and the analog stick is decent, as it ends up being somewhat close to playing with a fight stick.

    Now, don't first-glance me. I'm not bitching because I suck at the game. I've been playing Street Fighter's incarnations since 1992- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior on SNES and Special Championship Edition on Genesis. No, I didn't start on arcade because where I live, there are virtually no good arcades. Since then I feel I've become a pretty accomplished player, starting out by playing as Ryu, Ken and other Shotoclones, branching out and trying charge characters and attempting to get good with the lesser-used like Dhalsim. I've settled on Cammy, as she's always been a favorite of mine(since Super Street Fighter II, that is) as far as moves and she's not bad to look at, either. ;)

    Before I verbally beat the crap out of Street Fighter IV, let me first take you back to it's release and my first impressions. February 2009- my best friend gets ahold of the game and calls me to come over and see it, which I do, and I'm very impressed with what I see and play. The game seems to be almost everything I could ask for in a Street Fighter game minus a few of the old bonuses the old games had. No bonus rounds, special modes(aside from Time Attack, Survival and obligatory Practice modes). I had my blinders on anyways, so I didn't notice this at first. I was however, very impressed with the Trial mode that taught you useful combos and essential moves and timing. I ws happy and wanted the game immediately.

    About half a year later, the game was still $45 pre-owned at the local monopolizing 'GameStore.' I check eBay and within a few minutes I found the game for half the price and bid, the game was mine. It arrived and I began to play at my hearts content. Until I bit deeper into the game and hit a bone.

    At first I had to unlock some characters, so to Arcade mode I went. The game's AI was pretty good at Medium level, it gave me a bit of a challenge, which surprised me. Finally, the last battle came, a new guy named Seth.

    Let me stop here to talk about this guy. Named after Seth Killian, Capcom's Community Manager who is rumoured to be a pretty damn good SF player, the character is storied to be a new body created for M.Bison that absorbs information on fighting styles and incorporates others' special moves into his own. This allows for Seth to have a special move for every situation imaginable. Couple that with super AI that Capcom developed for the game and you've got a pretty tough opponent. A little TOO tough. Something about the AI seems to make it able to read which move you're going to use and pick you apart at every button press. Many of his moves hit waaay more than once to further increase the difficulty, or should I just say, the cheapness. Ridiculously multi-hitting moves abound in SFIV and that's another crack I'll uncover here.

    I also noticed that he was a bit overpowered. Like many other characters in the game, some of his normal hits and special attacks drain a lot of life and for no apparent reason. The others I speak of are Sagat, Honda, Blanka, and Zangief. But wait, of course I know a couple of these guys are overpowered to balance how slow or easy to hit they are. This has always been the case with a few of them, including Zangief and Honda. There's no reason for Sagat and Blanka to take this seat as well. I've had about a 4th of my life bar drained by Sagat's regular heavy uppercut(not Tiger Uppercut). Blanka can usually just sit back and charge any of his special moves and be ready to drain your life at the blink of an eye. And like Sagat, he's also coupled with devastating regular attacks like his low heavy punch, and heavy kicks.

    Sagat also has a problem with multi-hitting specials. His Ultra combo, Tiger Destruction(guess the name fits..), can tear you apart. Also on this list are Ryu's Ultra Hadouken, Ken's Ultra Shoryuken and of course, Blanka's Ultra. Akuma's Ultra Instant Hell Murder is an honorable mention, but it can be easily avoided so it's not on the list. Sagat, Ken, and Akuma also have dangerous multi-hitting normal attacks as well. These are all somewhat petty annoyances because they can be avoided, but I feel I've lost too many matches just because half of my life bar was drained by a stupid attack that is just way too overpowered and hits too many times. Anything over 17-hits without a normal combo added beforehand is just ridiculous unless we're playing Killer Instinct.

    Needless to say, most people who you play against online choose these cheap powerhouses to bait an easy win. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg with online play issues. Why do people online want to win other than supremacy over others? This is still unclear to me aside from the recently added Championship mode, where you can rank up by gradually building points. See, there's also a Ranked online mode which uses these things called BP, Battle Points. How they are awarded and their use is somewhat of a mystery. Seems like I'll win a match and win maybe 5 BP, then I'll lose the next one and 100 BP will go with it. Why? Nobody knows but Capcom.

    The easiest way of connecting to play someone online is supposed to be the Quick Match option. I'm not sure why but this is always hit-and-miss. It gives you a list of three different players to choose from each time you enter or refresh, and beside the name it shows they connection speed in the form of a colored bar. The best being green, then yellow, orange, and finally red. Well, you'd think green would be the best to connect to, so you try them when you see them. Sometimes they just won't work! From connection, it's then broken down into language preference. My default language is English, so I'm supposed to be able to connect to English speakers more readily than other languages. Again, somehow this doesn't work right. I'll be allowed to play Hiro in Japan with a red bar, but not Johnny in California who has a yellow bar. Why, Capcom, why?! I usually end up just making my own room and letting only certain people with a high enough bar play. Kinda shitty that I have to do that, but that's how it works best.

    I'll talk briefly about the 'Special Modes,' but there's not much to say. There's Time Attack and Survival mode, if you fully beat them you unlock taunts or costume colors. You'd think it would be semi-easy, as most people like to have these features from the start. No, no. Capcom didn't bar any holds here, either. Going through these modes is ridiculous as anything else in this game. They sometimes make you play through most of the characters in the game before ending a SECTION of the trial. I think there are 5 or so sections of each mode, and to unlock anything, you have to beat them all. The easy mode for each is decently paced and difficult, but the hard mode, which counts for the most bonuses is crazy. The first match or two you have to beat anywhere from 14-22 characters to even finish the section. It just makes everything annoying to say the least. There is no reason for this. I can understand that maybe some of the tournament players(the best SF players of all) would appreciate the challenge, but everyone else who is an average player like me just gets pissed and disappointed. I'm not willing to become a tournament player just to unlock some stupid alternate costume colors. I don't have THAT much time to waste.

    Or do I? I am sitting here, after all...

    Citations, just to prove I'm not just blowing steam:

    Capcom admits overpowered characters: http://www.joystiq.com/2009/07/13/capcom-admits-to-overpowered-seth-and-sagat-in-street-fighter-iv/

    Capcom says Seth will be even cheaper in SSFIV: http://kotaku.com/5385868/capcom-seth-will-be-cheaper-in-super-street-fighter-iv

  6. The situation currently seen in the United States of America is something that all of us gamers have seen before. Quite regularly actually. It has played out before our eyes and we have even taken part in it on multiple occasions. Some of us even look forward to taking part in what we know will be a similar situation that will require our action and our expertise. What might I be referring to?

    The Mushroom Kingdom -

    The Mushroom Kingdom is a lot like the United States of America. We have plenty of stuff to do, and the citizens are mostly happy. Both the USA and the Mushroom Kingdom even have economies that run on coins. The Mushroom Kingdom accepts outsiders and strives to create a place where everyone is accepted. Both places even have different locations that feature drastically different environments with familiar and unfamiliar people living there. Not withstanding these differences, all of the people seem to be able to communicate pretty well (for the most part).

    The Cast –

    Now lets run down the characters.

    Princess Toadstool is the personification of Liberty…freedom if you will. She is the Mushroom Kingdoms “Statue of Liberty”. She stands for righteousness, freedom, acceptance, and all of the good things people want ruling over their country.

    The Mario Brothers are concerned citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. They might not be originally from there, but they work and play there…adding to the greatness of the Kingdom. They also jump into action when someone has to stand up and protect the Kingdom. The Mario Brothers are the personification of all American Citizens who care about what is going on in their country (regardless of political affiliations).

    Random Toadstools exist in the Mushroom kingdom and USA has those that don’t really care what is going on around them just as long as they can continue their normal routine and attempt to make as many coins as they can.

    Bowser, which in today’s environment would be just like the President (NOTE – I am not suggesting an overthrow of the president or some other such action, but the comparison is undeniable). Bowser is constantly attempting to kidnap Princess Peach and lock her away so that he can make all of the decision for the Mushroom Kingdom. Why? It isn’t because he wants to have kids with her so they can rule, no. He has his own Koppa Kids. Is it because he wants the coins? No, he has his own coins. No one is quite sure where all of his coins come from, but he seems to do just fine since his humble beginning. Bowser was an organizer of those he deemed “under represented and under appreciated in the Mushroom Kingdom. People like the Goombas, the Koopa Troopas, and the MagiKoopas. Bowser didn’t care that the reason these people got a bad shake was because they were the ones always causing problems. The reason he wants to take over the Mushroom Kingdom is simply because Bowser believes that he knows a better way to rule and that under his rule everyone, be it Toadstool or Goomba, will have everything they need and desire. Bowser has even attempted to “marry” himself to the Princess so that he could legitimize his rule in the eyes of the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. No matter how many times his ideas and plans have been stopped by the Mario Brothers, he continues to spout the same rhetoric and come back again and again with the same basic plan, just covered over in a new gloss.

    The situation –

    Bowser got his start by “organizing” those that he deemed “less fortunate” in the Mushroom Kingdom. From there he used these people to thrust him into a position where he had some power. There he took the path of less resistance to try and kidnap the Princess. (Just as the President used his Community Organizer background to have himself thrust into the Senate and while there he voted…when he voted at all…for the path that leads to more control by the person in power). Did he kidnap the princess for personal control over the Kingdom, no. Just like Super Mario Brothers 1 it was more for the purpose of getting her out of the way, locked in some dungeon in 8-4 (Just as the President attempted to vote for power to the government, even though he himself did not run it). Even though Bowser was defeated and the Princess was set free, Bowser got a taste for power and would come back again.

    Now the Goombas and those who followed Bowser liked what he was doing and decided that they should follow him. Later we find Bowser acting like he had lost him memory and siding with the Mario Brothers to bring peace and tranquility to the Mushroom Kingdom. (Most of us remember this from Super Mario RPG and runs a close relation to the President’s Presidential Campaign). While Bowser’s memory was gone he would always talk about how great things could be done for the Mushroom Kingdom if they backed him. Even though the Mario Brothers knew this had to be some sort of a trick, the Toadstools in the Kingdom bought into it and backed the “reformed Bowser” who promised change for the better. Once Bowser was set as a “good guy” in the eyes of the people and all other evil was defeated (throwing him into the position of power), he quickly returned to his old ways and attempted to steal the Princess once again. (Quickly after the President was elected, his promises of transparency, no spending, and bi-partisanship all disappeared as a forgotten memory). It wasn’t until the Toadstools realized the change in Bowser and once again sided with the Mario Brothers could action be taken. At this point Bowser had already started to implement his policies (just like the economic stimulus plan was rushed into law without the citizens even getting to read it). That unrest started to grow as more and more Toadstools ended up without work and without coins, despite what Bowser had said. Even the some of the Goombas started to revolt.

    After this failed attempt, Bowser would tell the people of the Mushroom Kingdom how sorry he was and that he would not try anything like that again. Soon after, Bowser once again attempts to kidnap the Princess but this time decides it would be best to attempt to “marry her”. (We have all seen this before) If he manages to marry her, then the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom will think she is still there leading the way, even though he could just lock her away again. (Just as the President has attempted to reform health care in America by saying how it is the job of liberty and freedom that everyone should be covered). This way, he could make all the decisions along with his council of Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and MagiKoopas. (Just as under the current reform bill all decisions about health care would be made by a panel created by Bowser with people chosen by Bowser). This could be done by marrying Peach and shouting “free coins for all”.

    After being burned by Bowser before, the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom decided it would be best if they looked into Bowser’s attempt to marry the Princess and figure out how his “free coins for all” would actually work. As far as the Citizens of the Mushroom Kindgom knew, there were a limited number of coins in the world and having Bowser married to the Princess would be a bad idea (shades of many Super Mario games rolled into one). The citizens cried out for the Mario Brothers once again (as they do in all of the non-dream Mario Brothers games). When the Mario Brothers showed up and started to come for Bowser, Bowser would hold the Princess hostage for all to see (normally from a flying ship of some sort). Bowser would even have his Goombas cry out that if Bowser’s rule wasn’t followed the Princess would DIE! (Just as the Senators and House member who follow Bowser claim that if this Healthcare Reform isn’t passed then everyone will get sick and freedom/liberty will be gone). Bowser would even go so far as to vilify the Mario Brothers by calling them “Mustached Menaces” (just as President would continue to attempt and vilify anyone who stood up against the healthcare reform).

    Yes, Bowser has had some good ideas in the past, do not get me wrong. If you have ever played through the Super Mario series, you know that even with good intentions, it always comes down to a massive power grab with Bowser. The only way to save the Princess is for the Mario Brothers to follow the will of the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom to stop Bowser’s continuous “Take over the Mushroom Kingdom” schemes and make sure that Princess Toadstool stays in power.

    Based on the above similarities Nintendo might as well add in that due to budget constraints imposed on the Mushroom Kingdom by Bowser, Mario and Luigi will NOT be returning for Super Mario Galaxy 2 as they will have no way to return to the Galaxy. Sending the Mario Brothers to Space, even if it was to save the known universe, would not be a good use of Mushroom Kingdom Coins. Bowser has already spent those coins “for the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom in order to stimulate the economy”. Said citizens have still not seen any of the coins or any economic stimulation.

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    POLO9999
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    There's a Short introduction about this game.

    A Good old times game, it was one of my favorite when i were more younger and we rent this games for Week-ends :-). (Now i have the Game).

    The first thing i see it's the free-mode, that's the mode i like most ! :D. You drive in the cities, stealing cars, runaway the cops,...

    But sure, the missions are the main mode, But some are hard enough to get angry.

    There's something that you'll get ANYWAY... be chassed by cops !!!

    The Script is soo rude that if you pass the speed limit just a little more... You got chassed... Red Light passed? Chassed !... It's quite bad when you need to keep away the cops (That's also normal that it's soo rude because you'll drive mostly (no guns) soo definitely cops need to be more rude for equilibrate the level).

    The maps are quite big too :-).

    On the start you get only Chicago and La Havane but 2 other cities are available after that :).

    And in the end, somes of the challenges are just... impossible (Check Out the Video).

    Good Points :

    Good Maps.

    Free Mode.

    Graphics.

    Bad Points :

    Police is very rude.

    Some Challenges impossible for a normal player.

    My Rate : 8.5/10

    Video Link : http://fr.justin.tv/clip/9b7a8a0079ad3b7e

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    • Especially in Japan, where at the time a normal CD sold for $30. Also, btw, Japan is probably the only technologically advanced country in the world where CD sales are still higher than digital sales.  In Japan, "twenty-five years ago" is right now.  But at least CDs are for more reasonably priced these days.  Now they only cost $25.
    • Yeah, it's like all the head shops here in the US that don't sell bongs, but do sell "water pipes". CD rentals though...there was a time when that might have been a useful service. I mean, I admit, that time was 'twenty-five years ago', but still...somewhat entrepreneurial.
    • Guest Sarah
      Nice review. I enjoyed reading it.
      Actually I have watched that movie and going through this review was a great fun for me. نویا سیستم
    • I wouldn't ever want people to pay me.  That would put too much pressure on me to do more, and I don't have enough free time as it is.   One day I want to make a guide on how I scan and edit mags.  For now, you can find E-Day's scanning guides under the "support" menu at the top of the page.  A good scanner is a big help.  I use a Fuji ScanSnap ix500.  Beyond that, you need editing software.  I use Photoshop CS6, but I think there are free alternatives available (though I have no experience with them myself).
    • Sorry I just woke up, and I entirely misread your post, I thought you weren't willing to provide content because number didn't grew up, and not because of the function of the site didn't work anymore. I really feel dumb now, haha... But what I said is still valid nonetheless. Thanks for your work, and I hope you will find the motivation to keep going one day because I appreciate your work.